Canucks Report: Free agent frenzy
Canucks sign four on Day 1 of NHL free agency
HAMHUIS SIGNS: BC BOY COMES HOME
Playing Frisbee in flip-flops on the beach while sipping a cold one and grilling some burgers we were not, Canucks.com spent Canada Day tracking NHL Free Agency and Vancouver was as active as anyone.
The Canucks landed arguably the biggest free agent defenceman available in Dan Hamhuis, a rugged 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of Smithers, BC who has played only for the Nashville Predators during his six years in the NHL.
”We prepared ourselves for free agency, we look at a lot of different teams and a lot of different fits,” Hamhuis explained during a conference call. “Vancouver fit us really well, it’s a city we’re familiar with, a team I’ve always grown up watching and I’m certainly very excited to sign here.”
Hamhuis, the 10th defenceman signed on July 1st, recorded 24 points (5-19-24) in 78 games with the Predators last season and has registered 161 points (32-129-161) and 375 penalty minutes in 483 NHL games. The 27-year-old has collected nine points (1-8-9) and 18 penalty minutes in 28 NHL playoff games.
It was rumoured that Hamhuis took less money to play for his hometown team and he confirmed that is infact the case.
"We did get some different offers from other teams and some of them were higher in contract value but we like the fit in Vancouver, we like the opportunity presented from a hockey perspective and the lifestyle perspective for my family was also a very important consideration. We are quite familiar with the city and it’s a city that we quite enjoy."
The terms of the deal were also a major factor in Hamhuis selecting Vancouver over other suitors. Stability was what the blueliner wanted and that's what he got in a six-year deal that includes a no-trade clause, perfect for a married man who two young children.
"Both things are important, I think setting new roots down in a new community we wanted to have stability there and not just two years or three years and out, we felt six was a good number to establish that and having a no-trade is always a nice thing to have in your back pocket, especially when you have young kids, moving around is not always the most fun so having that security is definitely nice."
Canucks.com reporter Derek Jory will have an in-depth feature on Hamhuis on Monday, complete with the challenge the Canucks thrust upon Hamhuis that helped him land on the West Coast.
HE’S OUR MANNY
Vancouver signed another trio of players today with Manny Malhotra making headlines with his three-year contract with the Canucks.
Malhotra, the second player of Indian descent to play in the NHL, was a member of the San Jose Sharks last season after the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ontario product spent the bulk of his 13-year career with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Drafted by the New York Rangers in 1998, Malhotra spent four seasons in the Big Apple before the Dallas Stars iced the centreman for two years.
Having just played for a strong playoff team after making the post-season only once with the Blue Jackets, Malhotra is excited to be part of another team on the cusp of something special.
”There are a lot of factors that go in and probably the biggest one is that you look at the roster and there’s an opportunity to win right now and as a player you want to be in a situation where you know the team is a good team, it’s a competitive team, it’s a team that can far into the playoffs,” said Malhotra via conference call.
The 30-year-old had his best year in terms of goal scoring with the Sharks in 2009-10 picking up 14 goals, two better than his previous high. His 33 points (14-19-33) was the second highest total of his career; he was a plus-17, his highest rating to date. Malhotra also set a new mark for career playoff games played with 15.
Malhotra finished second in the playoffs in faceoff percentage (60.7) and winning draws will be one of his key responsibilities with his new team.
”Much along the same lines of being strong in the faceoff circle, a strong penalty killer, being able to fit on whatever line they need me to fit in on but basically along the same lines of being that strong checking forward.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Left wing Jeff Tambellini was inked to a one-year contract by the Canucks Thursday.
Tambellini, the son of former Canucks player and assistant general manager Steve Tambellini, had 14 points (7-7-14) in 36 games with the New York Islanders in 2009-10 and has been dreaming of playing in Vancouver since he was kid.
“I’ve been coming in here since I was seven-years-old so I almost grew up with this team and being able to see behind the scenes made it something I always wanted to be a part of and if I ever had the opportunity to be a Vancouver Canuck, I was going to do it,” said Tambellini. “The minute that offer came in, it was done in my mind.”
He isn’t kidding.
”The minute I heard the Canucks made me an offer, it was a no-brainer and I didn’t even listen to anything else that came in.”
Now that’s commitment. Ironically enough, it’s the commitment Vancouver has to winning that makes the Canucks such an appealing organization to be a part of, according to the 26-year-old Albertan.
”They have a committed team that’s ready to win, this team could have won this year and to see a roster where I feel like I can win a job and make an impact on this team, it’s exciting. It’s going to take a lot of work, but like I said a true Cup contending team is hard to find in this league.
“I am ecstatic. For me having a chance to play professional hockey and having the chance to come to a cup contender in Vancouver is a best-case scenario so I’m absolutely thrilled.”
In 180 career games with the Islanders and Los Angeles Kings since being drafted by LA 27th overall in 2003, Tambellini has accumulated 46 points (18-28-46). He believes he’s now ready to take his game to another level with the Canucks.
”I think I can bring a lot of speed and scoring ability, I’m able to play with a little grit and get in on forechecks, kind of the way Mason Raymond is playing, I’m kind of the same set up player. I’ve got speed and am tenacious on the puck and will do whatever it takes to score goals.”
ONE YEAR DEAL: PERRAULT
Gillis’ first move of the day was signing 27-year-old Joel Perrault, a Montreal native with 12 goals and 14 assists in 89 NHL games split between the St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes, to a one-year deal.
After being drafted by Anaheim, Perrault was traded to the Coyotes after playing in the QMJHL and AHL. Perrault had five points in 20 games before a short stint in St. Louis led to a return to Phoenix. Since 2006-07 the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward has played for either the Coyotes or their farm team, the San Antonio Rampage.
After an exhausting day of negotiating his way to four new contracts, Mike Gillis met with the media to discuss his new look Canucks.
Can you talk about Dan’s acquisition and how this all came about?
”It always happens pretty quickly with high-end players. It was one of the first calls we made this morning and it took us a while to get it done, but obviously we’re really pleased about getting a guy from British Columbia to come back here and play for the Canucks.”
There were a lot of reports that he took a lower offer to come here, what does that say to you as a franchise?
”We’re trying to compete for a Stanley Cup and ultimately players do have to do that if they want to be in that environment and we were thrilled that he was prepared to do that and look at our team as a contending team and was prepared to come here for less money.”
Fair to say that you now have to move someone on defence?
”We’re going to cross that bridge when the dust settles, we’ll have lots of opportunity. Last year we thought we had plenty of defencemen at the beginning of the season and ended up not having enough, so there’s lots of time to think about those issues.”
What do you like about Dan’s game?
”He a mobile defenceman who moves the puck. We think here he’ll have a great opportunity to put up more numbers, I think he’ll compete for a one-two spot if he plays his best, certainly a top-four guy and he’s going to get the chance to play in every situation.”
What do you like about Manny Malhotra?
”He’s got size, character and he’s a really good penalty killer, great on faceoffs and we wanted to get more size into our lineup at the forward position, we’ve got a lot of skill. Manny adds a dimension that we didn’t have and clearly based on our penalty kill last year we had to improve in that area and he’s a very good penalty killer.”
In your mind can Manny play wing or is he more effective at centre?
”Both, that’s what we talked to him about before we signed him, whether he was comfortable playing wing if we had a young centreman in the middle and he said absolutely he was. He’s a real solid guy, good character, good leadership, so he’s prepared to play at either position.”